IBS’ Vision for Air Cargo Industry

IBS Software Services has progressed by leaps and bounds to become a leader in providing new-generation IT solutions to the travel, transportation and logistics industry. The wide spectrum of products and services that IBS off er includes managing mission-critical operations for major airlines, airports, oil and gas companies, cruise lines and tour operators around the world. Payload Asia sat down with Ashok Rajan, VP and head of Airline Cargo Services, IBS, who is responsible for the overall function of the cargo line of business.


IBS Software Services has
progressed by leaps and bounds
to become a leader in providing
new-generation IT solutions to the
travel, transportation and logistics
industry. The wide spectrum of
products and services that IBS off er
includes managing mission-critical
operations for major airlines, airports,
oil and gas companies, cruise lines
and tour operators around the world.
Payload Asia sat down wiThAshok
Rajan, VP and head of Airline Cargo
Services, IBS, who is responsible for
the overall function of the cargo line
of business.

Opportunities in
Industry 4.0

In the age of Industry 4.0, where
companies are fast embracing the
digital era, IBS has seen its business
growing from digitalisation. Industry
4.0, although coined to be the next
big milestone or inflexion point in the
evolution of humankind, there is little
comprehension that this will bring
about a paradigm shift in the way
business is done today. “The interesting
thing about it is that it’s not just about
computers, IT or automation but goes
much farther in ambition and scale that
has never been accomplished before,”
says Ashok.

“What we can expect to see as part
of the 4ThIndustrial Revolution is the
creation of a global digital network
that connects industries, supply chains,
people and machines wiThthe key
aim of doing tasks more efficiently
and intelligently. A lot of these tasks
and decisions will be made real-time
by ‘smart’ machines connected to the
internet backbone – the IoT [Internet
of Things].

“The lines between the physical and
digital world will get more blurred with
human-machine interactions being
more pronounced. Analytics will play
a major role in this, which will allow
users or machines to make sense of
what is happening, predict events
before they happen and take proactive of operations,” Ashok continues.
However, for an organisation like IBS,
Industry 4.0, off ers boTha significant
opportunity and challenge.

“Opportunity – because this need
for the shift will push more and more
adoption of next-generation digital
platforms in industries that are geared
up for the new age. Secondly, 4.0 will
spur the next wave of technology led
innovations and we will see many of
the emerging technologies of today,
such as artificial intelligence, becoming
more mature as well as accessible to
us as service providers – much like how the cloud has transformed the IT
development arena by making highend
development tools and R&D labs
accessible to even the smallest of startups,”
explains Ashok.

“At the same time, it is definitely
a challenge because it will bring
about a certain level of volatility and
uncertainty at least in the medium
term, which will require a significant
amount of effort in change management
within our organisation as well as those
of our customers. That said, we believe
IBS is rightly positioned to meet these
challenges and provide the logistics
industry wiThsmart digital solutions to
help as well as benefit from this.”

Platform solution for
the air cargo industry

IBS designed and developed iCargo
to be a unified platform that brings
together the various aspects of the air
cargo business into a single unified
IT system. For a carrier, this offers
a huge opportunity to simplify day
to day business operations and move
away from the “silo”-driven concept
where each business unit operates on
different platforms wiThdifferent data
sources – hence each seeing at best an
incomplete or at worst incorrect picture
of the business.

Ashok explains, “iCargo operates
on a single data source and hence
eliminates the need for data exchange
between business functions. This
basically means that no transaction is
lost and no data is overwritten. This
truly becomes the digital blueprint of
your business – which can then be put
through smart data mining to extract
a wealThof data, to further sharpen the
off ering and the process that delivers
the service.”

The platform, built on some of
the most advanced technologies and
an extremely enabling and resilient
architecture, provides capabilities for
carriers from small LCCs to some of
the largest cargo carriers in the world
to operate their businesses.

“WiThiCargo, we believe that we have
created a platform for transformation
– be it in incorporating innovative
business practices, adoption of new
technologies or to bring velocity to
business change. iCargo, for this reason, offers value beyond just the
capabilities that it offers as a core
product – it delivers the promise of
future possibilities and new capabilities
that you can build on top of it to truly set
yourself apart from your competition.”
Ashok shared that many of IBS’
customers would describe iCargo as
a foundation on which incremental
transformational initiatives have been
rolled out into their organisations.

“IBS has been an integral part of these
transformation stories and this, I feel,
is truly what sets us apart. For us, the
customer partnership stories start after
the implementation of the product.
Our large customer engagements are
long-term partnerships of 10 years and
more, this is testimony to what we
have achieved as a true partner to our
customers and the role we have played
in their transformation stories.”

Overcoming the biggest
obstacle

The success of iCargo also comes
wiThsome obstacles, one of the
biggest has been scepticism. The
industry had some bad memories
of failed new generation technology
transformation projects, which had
resulted in monumental financial
write-off s. Even in today’s world, we see
cases of colossal failures – for example,
there was the story of a U$350 million
write-off of a new generation product
built by a prominent logistics company.

“We got over this scepticism through
an innovative programme management concept we refer to as the CGI (the
Core Group of Influence) – which is
essentially a partnership programme
open to any interested industry
organisation who wanted to be part
of the iCargo vision. We work with
them to transform this from a pure
technology revamp initiative to a
business transformation initiative. The
CGI also served as a ‘validation board’
for all the new business practices that
iCargo would bring in.
“This approach was immensely
successful, wiThall CGI partners
eventually becoming customers and
to get the industry over the scepticism.

The growThtrajectory of iCargo after
the first go live at NCA in 2008 to
date – where we have more than 22
customers live on the product and some
very big names (soon to be named) in
the pipeline is a clear indication of this
achievement. I would say, for IBS, it is
a long-term strategy that has paid off
very well,” says Ashok.

What is in store for IBS
and air cargo?

“If there would be one thing we
would like to improve on, it would be the
pace of adoption of new technology in
this industry,” quips Ashok. While the
entry barriers for access to innovative
technologies and the lead time to get a
solution to work is becoming shorter, it
still takes an incredible amount of time
for adoption and “industrialisation” of
such new capabilities. As Ashok puts
it, “The technologies by themselves are of limited value unless there is
business uptake and accelerated value
delivery. The industry is still struggling
wiThvery basic problems like process
standardisation and data quality and
this makes adoption of technology
very challenging and slow. If we truly
want to see transformational change,
these are fundamental aspects of the
business that we must improve.”

“The key driver for growThin the
coming years is surely going to be
led by the digital economy. This will
manifest itself in various shapes and
forms – most prominent now being
e-commerce. The growThthat we
see in digital enterprises will shape
the future of the global economy and
certainly in this industry as well.”

According to Ashok, while the
progress will be centred on high growth
regions such as India and China, the
engines which will drive this growth
will well and truly be global. The
next 10 years will see the emergence
of platform service providers such as
Amazon and Alibaba, who are already
getting into adjacent verticals like
logistics. This will, in effect, accelerate
the pace of transformation and will
be the tipping point for this industry
where traditional methods will give
way to more nimble, smart operations
which will be driven completely by
technology. The buzz words of today
– like AI, driverless vehicles, drones,
embedded analytics, and what have
you, will eventually become value
generating business tools once this
tipping point is reached.